Warning: Check for the Union Label

Despite the starry-eyed report in this morning's L.A. Times about Democratic presidential candidates holding hands yesterday with union leaders and liberal activists at two D.C. conclaves, don't start singing "Kumbaya" just yet.

In the real world, putative presidential contenders Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg know how to co-opt unions; they have street cred for doing so in New York City (Regarding Bloomberg's, read my colleague Wayne Barrett's August 2005 piece, "Billionaire Buys Union." Or go to a library and steal one of Barrett's books about Giuliani).

So much for the unions' perceived faithfulness to Democrats.

As for Hillary Clinton's fealty to the workers those unions represent, she has more experience as Wal-Mart's First Lady than she does on the picket line.

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Check for the legit union label if the power suit belongs to Clinton. Despite what those right-wing anti-feminist critics of Hillary say, there really are reasons to distrust her.

Here's the L.A. Times piece, by Janet Hook and Peter Nicholas:

Two powerful blocs among Democrats — organized labor and liberal activists — heard several of the party's presidential contenders pledge allegiance Thursday to a progressive agenda more sweeping than would have seemed politically palatable not long ago.

The candidates' liberal chorus about the war in Iraq, gay rights, healthcare and labor issues was a testament to the Democratic left wing's growing strength since the Republican rout in the 2006 midterm election.

During the 2000 Senate campaign, Hillary presented herself as a real liberal, hawking votes at a gathering of elderly Teamster retirees, many of whom were wearing anti-Wal-Mart buttons. They were shocked when a reporter (me) told them that Hillary was an experienced ribbon-cutter for new Wal-Marts as a board member back in Arkansas.

Check out my May 2000 piece "Wal-Mart's First Lady." When I tried to publicly and politely question her, after her speech to the Teamster retirees, about her ties to Wal-Mart, she froze and then ran, and her Secret Service entourage pulled me away. She's an even more artful dodger now.

Her past as a corporate litigator doesn't pass inspection by friends of labor. Neither does her work on squelching any chance Americans might have had for something resembling national health insurance.

This morning's L.A. Times story on the lefty love fest noted:

The White House hopefuls called for broad healthcare reform.

Don't believe it if that vow comes from Hillary. Back in May 2000, when it still looked as if it would be Rudy v. Hillary for the Senate seat (Rudy later dropped out because of prostate problems, and Clinton swamped his replacement, Rick Lazio), Hillary started her series of televised "Town Hall" meetings (this one was on NBC's Today) and they were as closely managed as the health-care crap she tried to sell the public during the Clinton administration. One dissident managed to sneak a question in. It was more of a volley, as I reported at the time:

Obviously prepped to try to make a personal connection, she prefaced each reply — to the audience and to hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer — with such standards as "I appreciate what you've done" and "I'm a very strong supporter of several different things."

Not that she didn't take any tough questions. One of them came from Karen Shore, a Long Island psychologist who's head of the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers. Shore blasted the Clinton administration's embrace of managed health care, telling Hillary: "You and Mr. Clinton were strong supporters of managed care and managed competition. This system has denied citizens needed treatment, killing many people that we could have saved and causing others unnecessary pain. It has frustrated and angered citizens by denying them choice and control over their own health-care decisions. It's almost fully destroyed mental-health care. And it has demoralized and depressed a nation of clinicians."

And that was before the current psychotic war in Iraq.

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